A good-value, modern hotel, the Novotel is in the heart of the animated, bar-lined Esplanade area, near the St. Lawrence Market, the Air Canada Centre, Union Station, and the Entertainment District. The recreation facilities are especially extensive for the price with a fitness center, indoor heated saltwater pool, sauna and Jacuzzi. This hotel gets a gold star for its successful renovation--a full refresh of room and lobby decor--without jacking up prices.
Cloud murals. Wood Floors. Ergonomic desks. When the Novotel renovates, they go all out. The rooms are practically unrecognizable. Updated and sleek, they scream "minimal chic", with built-in flat screens, safes, modern headboards, floating bedside tables and free Wi-Fi. There are 16 connecting rooms that suits families. Ask about the babysitting.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Not all rooms are renovated yet! The old rooms are unspeakably drab--I'm referring to the flounced bed skirts, among other things--so hold out for updated decor. Some guests comment on the small'ish windows and temporary noise from renovations.
What's this? Floor space! The bathrooms are notably roomy. We love the square sinks, glass showers with multi-function hardware, lit shaving mirrors on an arm, dark wood accents and a huge, glowing wall mirror.
Entering through the four-story building's colonnade of stone arches, guests are instantly assured that they made the right decision. The renovation was a success, updating the lobby with sleek but welcoming furnishings (low sofas, modern lamps) to jazz up the original architectural features, including warm wood paneling and a grand staircase up to the mezzanine level. There's even a modern nook with a rectangular gas fireplace and two orange designer sofas.
Decorated with a sky-blue walls and plastic Muskoka chairs, the new saltwater pool is bright, with natural light. The hot tub is located in a corner decorated with sleek black tiles. The exposed industrial ceiling is painted white, housing extra artificial light to keep things cheery.
While there's no spa at the hotel, there are busy hair salons just steps away.
With walls painted the same sky-blue colour as the pool, the sixth-floor gym is equally cheery, with cardio machines (and TV screens to keep you distracted), free weights on racks, weight machines, benches and core-strengthening tools. There are windows, but you wouldn't say they provide much of a view.
Cafe Nicole, on the main lobby level, is home to the breakfast buffet (not included). Their French toast is worth the carbs. It's very busy, swarming with kids, so make sure to do your meditation app.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Grumbling guests seem to agree that the buffet is convenient, but not nearly worth $19.50 per person.
With abundant parking options (private indoor and outdoor open air, private outdoor enclosed, public indoor and outdoor), it's easier to bring the car to the Novotel than many other downtown properties. Still, try to avoid it. You're only a 5-minute cab from Union Station, and a short walk to street cars and subways. Taxis patrol through the area, too.
The iconic Old Spaghetti Factory (3-minute walk) is a "must visit" for budget tourists who want a fun experience, rustic Italian decor and great meatballs. Or, for flame-seared sushi in an upscale environment with soaring ceilings, head to Miku (12-minute walk).
Scotland Yard Pub (4-minute walk) is a class U.K. ale house with lively chat, TV sports and a steady stream of "football" talk. For something less rigorously British, there's Bier Markt (2-minute walk), an upscale brasserie with over 150 brands of beer and a Belgian-influenced menu.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Right in Old Toronto, near the St. Lawrence Market, one block from the PATH, it's a short cab hop to Union Station--or anywhere else. We like the Novotel's grand facade, with a gallery of stone arches, and the fully renovated rooms. Mostly, however, we love the price. Budget travelers will appreciate the pool and gym, discrete vending machines, the restaurant and bar. Parking options are plentiful, too.